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If you’re ready to jump on the bike shorts trend, the key is finding a pair that fits just right. And as with most anything running-related, if you buy shorts that are too big or small, they will eventually end up stuffed in the back of your drawer, never to be worn again. “It’s definitely a princess and the pea situation for me, but there are some great options out there,” says Elizabeth Carey, a run coach based in Seattle.
Runners across the country weighed in with what they look for in compression shorts to find the best bike shorts fit. The one piece of advice they all agreed on: try them on before buying. To make sure you invest in the right pair, head to the store with these runner-approved tips. You’ll leave feeling like you can crush that next mile, 10K, and beyond.
Figure out an ideal length.
Find a sweet spot between a length that looks good while you’re standing still and what feels good while you’re running. Those two things are not necessarily the same. Most brands start with 2.5- or 3-inch inseams and move up to 5-, 7- and 9-inch. Our recs cover all inseams.
Don’t feel confined to run- or female-specific shorts.
Jessie Zapotechne, the founder of Girls Run NYC, prefers men’s options because their bike shorts fit works better for her body. “Often, women’s cuts are not looking great on my hips/thighs area and can ride up and chafe.” And typically, the bike short length just means a longer cut.
Check the construction.
Look for wide and high waistbands if you feel more comfortable (they can help prevent bulge and tugging). Some slight silicone or anti-slip material will keep the legs from riding up.
Try them on.
“When you put them on, do you feel good?” asks Faith Briggs, a sprinter turned trail-runner based in Portland, Oregon. “For me, that’s number one. Getting out the door every morning can be hard, so I like it when my running clothes add to my confidence. I want to pull them on and look in the mirror and feel ready, like, ‘You got this.’”
Test on a treadmill.
After they pass the feel-good test, see if you can hop on a treadmill—you’ll know right away if you’ll spend the entire run tugging them down. No treadmill? No problem. “In the changing room, you might find me doing a few jumps,” says Thi Minh Huyen Nguyen, co-founder of Wayv Run Kollektiv, a Berlin, Germany-based run group.
Run with the bike shorts on a usual route.
Take them out for a run around a favorite route. Remember, the shorts should pretty much disappear—no bulging or insane tightness, so that you can focus on your course. If you notice the shorts more than your run, they’re not the ones for you.
Don’t be shy.
If you’re having trouble finding a pair of bike shorts that fit, lean on your teammates or other women you see in the running community. “If you see someone wearing long compression shorts with a body that looks like yours, ask them about their shorts. How long they are (5 inches? 7 inches?), and when and where they got them,” says Kelly Roberts, founder of the running community Badass Lady Gang. “You’ll get a reliable suggestion and you can see what they look like on a woman with thighs that look like yours. Crowdsource!”